The Tracks: One of the first things that I noticed about this project is that 6 of the 10 songs were fast, two more had a medium tempo, leaving the CD with only two slow songs. Not only are the lyrics significant, the project is a very up-beat one as well. (Thumbs up from me!) Though the songs call for a different style here and there, the tracks themselves create a sound that is consistent when you view the CD as a whole. There are some songs that may remind us of past numbers recorded by BFA, and others that stand by themselves. Yet, all fit together and have a special place on the project. If just one song were to be replaced by something else…then, it wouldn’t sound right and weaken the project.
The Singers: Tenor – Brian Free, Lead – Bill Shivers, Baritone – Derrick Selph, Bass – Jeremy Lile.
The Theme: There is a very clear spiritual theme woven into these lyrics. Each song has a characteristic that repeats itself over and over again throughout the recording, and that is this: they encourage us to do something to walk closer with the Lord. For example: in If The Lord Says Do It, we are challenged to follow God’s will. In Guard Your Heart, to resist temptation. In Nothing But Love, to let go of the past and embrace God’s love as our source of joy. These songs talk about what it is like to live a successful Christian life on this earth. They encourage us to let go of the past, trudge through the trials of the present and safeguard our souls for the future. If we heed their advice, they will be the life-lines that keep our eyes on Him. May I present to you – Nothing But Love…
1. Nothing But Love
Feature: Tenor vocals
Message: Every Christian has probably experienced regret over actions in the past, but the theme of this song is about the ones who have overcome it through Christ. In fact, the verse tells us that it would be all too simple to be discouraged by everything that we have done wrong in our lives – whether it be from choices years ago, or just yesterday. Yet, if the Creator of the universe can cast those faults as far as the east is from the west, why should we let them rob our joy still? The chorus rejoices with the truth that every Believer can claim after pondering on the One who saved them and forgave them from all their erring ways – God’s love. If we stop and think about the sins He has forgiven on our account, we’d agree, and sing along… “I know it must be mercy because – I feel nothing but love.” The second verse goes on to meditate upon the awesome forgiveness of God. The past has passed, there is no condemnation, and He has erased our dishonor…there is nothing to do but trust in Him. The bridge describes the peace that comes in knowing Christ – that we belong to Him.
Other Comments: Whereas the title song to BFA’s last project, Never Walk Alone, featured Brian Free and closed the recording – the title song to this project is also a tenor solo and opens the project.
2. It’s Quite A Valley
Feature: Lead vocals
Message: In the first stanza of this medium tempo tune, question upon question is asked concerning the valleys we encounter in life. Do you ever feel depleted of strength while holding the world on your shoulders? Do you ever doubt that you can make it through the night, yet alone another day? The road you travel has been hard indeed, but God Himself is sufficient. The chorus speaks of the long shadows outlining the valley your trial has taken you in, but the encouragement remains the same – keep holding on! Though you are in this place, the Lord is there with you and even if the basin of your troubles is great, it isn’t anything God can’t walk you through. The second verse concludes that looking up and recognizing that the mountain ahead of you is far from easy. Yet, if you pray through the steps that follow and believe that the Lord will supply the strength you need to face it – He will.
Other Comments: What an encouraging song! Many a song speaks of the trials we face and offers words of support for the way, but there is something about the simple truth in It’s Quite A Valley that stands out from the rest – a special song.
3. If The Lord Says Do It
Feature: Bass vocals
Message: “Everybody knows that a man can’t walk on water…” are the catchy words that start off this song about following the Lord’s voice no matter how impossible His request may seem. Just like we would assume that staying in the boat would be safer than stepping out on a wave, we may question why Peter didn’t sink when he tried it! The answer is found in the snappy lines that follow, “When Jesus is the One, telling you to come, what seems impossible is just as good as done.” The refrain echoes those same thoughts by assuring us that if the Lord desires you to do a something, He will also make it possible for you to accomplish whatever the task, no matter how unattainable it sounds. – and, if one of those things includes moving a mountain, don’t fret, just know He has a plan! The second verse reminds God’s children of the great things He has called us to do. Though it would be unfeasible to try such feats in our own strength, we know victory is only attainable through dependence and obedience to the Lord – the only One we need. The bridge brings to mind some of the miracles of old: Elijah calling fire from heaven, Moses parting the Red Sea, and of course, Peter walking on water.
Other Comments: To go along with the great message, the song also has a groovy sound. A sound that BFA fans will quickly recognize from other up-tempo songs that have featured Assurance’s bass singers in the past. Songs like “Jesus Will Pick You Up,” “God Will Close The Door” and “When The Mountain Will Not Move” to name a few. Personally, I give this a big thumbs up; it takes time to develop a sound, keep it steady through the years and still find great lyrics to match the beat.
4. I Will Be Praying
Feature: Lead vocals
Message: This song captures the true test of friendship – praying your hurting companion through their valley. Written from the view of one friend dropping by to check on another, we see this person reveal a burdened heart by expressing their concern of how life has faired for their companion. Leaving them with the assurance that they are not alone, and offering the greatest support possible ~ prayer. The chorus continues the one sided conversation of this friend and what they have promised to do, pray for strength. “These temporary trails won’t last for long,” he encourages, “and I will be praying with you…until they’re gone.” Yet, the friend isn’t finished, in the second verse he continues to speculate what will happen when these prayers rise to heaven. If 1,000 angels are sent to your side with one petition, how many will come when others are praying too? The bridge has a cool play on words with the verse Matthew 7:7 (I would write about it, but then that would spoil the surprise…) *smile*
Other Comments: Bill Shivers sounds better than ever on this song! I can’t wait to see BFA perform this one live in concert! Because this is a fast song, I especially enjoyed the feel of the last chorus which begins softer and quieter than the others, adding tasteful dynamics.
5. Guard Your Heart
Feature: Bass and Lead vocals
Message: These lyrics are the battle cry of the soul. As the first verse mentions, distractions and temptations surround us. So often we are drawn to things that will lead us away from the Lord, not anticipating that those very things will leave us cold and empty inside. The chorus pleads with the listeners to, “Guard your heart! Guard your heart!” Shut off all access to your soul and leave no way for the enemy to get in. Cling to the truth that you belong to God, believe and never forget that He has set you apart. The second verse warns us from trying to “play the game.” Just as you can’t get close to a fire without feeling the heat, you can’t get close to sin without feeling regret – so get far away from things that cause shame and guilt. The perfect solution is found in the last line, “Take hold of Christ and never let Him go…don’t let go!” The bridge presses upon us the urgency of this truth by using an illustration of a soldier in battle. As the warrior fights for his very life, we are to flee from the wrong and persevere to pursue things that are right. In this war against sin, no one is safe or invulnerable, yet, victory can be assured to those who watch and pray.
Other Comments: This is the second song on this project that we encounter co-written by Brian’s son, Ricky Free and Marty Funderburk. In a genre that sings mostly about heaven and the cross, these practical lyrics will be treasured by the listener. They are lyrics to live by…
6. There Is Power
Feature: Baritone vocals
Message: Written in first person, the songwriter tells us that there are times he finds himself on unfamiliar ground, or with a mountain in front of him (one that doesn’t look like it’s gonna move either!) In those moments, he opens the Bible and reminds himself of the promises God has given. The chorus is a mix of Old Testament stories where God put His power on display for the world to see, and how we can still tap into that same power when we need it today. In the second verse, the writer speaks to the listener and encourages them through their long trial. If they feel like their prayers aren’t being heard, he urges them to recall the mighty things God has done in the past and above all, never cease to call on His name. The bridge is the chorus of the old hymn “Power In The Blood.”
Other Comments: When I’m writing a review like this, I like to be surprised…and this song did just that. Listening to it the very first time, I never would have guessed that a hymn could have been integrated as a bridge without disrupting the style of the song. Ends up, our hymns can do a lot more than we give them credit for – these two songs were made for each other!
7. Calvary’s Cry
Feature: Tenor vocals
Message: Many ballads find their themes around the cross, as does this one. Yet, these lyrics are unique in that they personify mount Calvary as being one who can feel, hear and cry out as the Savior died. In the first verse, we see this hill catching the blood that fell, bearing the weight of sin with the Savior, hearing His voice, and shaking with the cry “it is finished.” Because all of those events took place in the past, Calvary has a cry of it’s own in the chorus. “Come.” After 2,000 years the love and grace offered on that hill is still accessible today, the sacrifice has not faded and the cry has not grown weak, “Come and be saved,” that’s Calvary’s cry. The second verse continues to emphasize the importance of Calvary in the redemptive plan: it was the ground obtained for the lost, yet, the same place where the redeemed take their stand. As truth calls out to every soul to draw closer to Golgotha, another chorus is sung, and then the bridge reminds us of how nothing has been changed, concerning Calvary’s cry…
Other Comments: Though there are other songs on this recording that have a slow tempo as this one, I’d crown Calvary’s Cry as the ballad of the project. It reminds me of some of the other big ballads that BFA has recorded in the past: like, For God So Loved, Healed, It’s All About The Blood, etc.
8. You Can Be A Bridge
Feature: Lead vocals
Message: If you have ever thought about what your purpose is on this earth, or, if you have ever wondered how you can leave a legacy for others to follow – this is your song. The first stanza grabs your attention by verbalizing phrases that most of us only think about, but are too scared to ask. If you want to make a difference in this world…where do you start? If you want to leave road marks for others to follow…how do you drive the stakes down deep enough so they won’t get pulled up with time? The refrain replies to these questions with a series of lines that will encourage you as you seek to make an impact on those around you. It says that you can be the person that the Lord uses everyday; whether it is to give hope or love to a person who needs an encouraging word, or even live in a way that speaks when “words are not enough.” Your testimony can be a bridge from earth to heaven for someone out there. The second verse goes on to say that you have the ability to take grace somewhere it hasn’t been before, and though some will never read a Bible – they can read the Gospel in your life. The bridge (of the song) reinforces the truth that God has given every person a special purpose for their life.
Other Comments: If I had to pick one song as a favorite from this recording – this would be the one. So many people fall prey to the idea that their lives don’t matter or count for anything. The statistics of individuals who commit suicide because they don’t feel like their lives have a purpose is staggering…they need to hear this song.
9. I Want To Be That Man
Feature: Tenor vocals
Message: In these lyrics we hear the voice of a son who tells the world what kind of man he wants to be…the kind his father was. In the opening lines a picture is drawn for us of a man who gets up while it is still dark outside to seek the light of God’s Word. It goes on to say that this father had a gentle yet passionate spirit about him that displayed his faith for all to see. Though the son admits that he didn’t always see eye to eye with his dad – the older he gets, he realizes that he wants to be just like him. The chorus is a description of what characterized the father and inspired the son …loving the Lord with all his heart, standing for the truth and leading his family, yet, depending on to God to lead him. The son continues in the second verse to address the ideals that the world would have us think: society says “get” – God says “give.” This young man wants his life to be remembered by what he gave, and to accomplish this, he “picks up his cross” and surrenders his life to serve Christ. The bridge echoes similar thoughts – like the apostles, saints, and father that set an example for him, he wants to leave a legacy for others to follow.
Other Comments: This song was also co-written by Brian’s son, Ricky Free and another writer, Lee Black. Wow. All I can say is, if this song isn’t a number one – there is something wrong with the charting stations! LOL
Feature: Baritone vocals
Message: This tune reminisces about the camp meeting days of old, but more importantly, what those days were really about – the revival of the soul. The first verse recalls some of the memories that would come along with hearing about an old fashion meeting: a fiery preacher, a sermon, and a hymn inviting all to come forward and pray for reawakening in their lives. As they did so, “amens” and “hallelujahs” were heard across the tent while Believers prayed for something special. The chorus tells us what these Christians were calling out to God for – a rekindling of the heart; one that would let the Holy Spirit have free course in their lives, and also, that every Believer would get on their knees and pray for this renewal of spiritual life to begin with their own soul. The second verse brings us back to modern day and sums up our churches as being on the road to a cold, lifeless community that has gradually lost its purpose in nurturing the spiritual life. So the prayer continues… that the children of God would once again stand on the Word and arouse the fire in their walk with the Lord to a shining blaze for His glory. The bridge resonates the same message.
Other Comments: What I enjoyed most about this song is that the music matches the lyrics. The words take us back in time, and so the track has a sound that’s “old” enough to replicate a classic quartet song, yet, “new” enough not to disrupt the musical theme of the project.
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